Pair of Climax Springs juniors point to passion in journey to 1,000 career points
Basketball has always been part of the journey for Climax Springs juniors Jayden Butterfield and Mark Henderson.
Butterfield’s father, James, is the head coach of the boys’ program at the school and has influenced the growth and development of the junior’s game while Henderson grew up in a home with concrete flooring, allowing him to constantly be dribbling and working on other parts of his game. Both juniors had the opportunity to get significant playing time as freshmen and it was only a matter of time before they became the next players at the school to reach 1,000 career points.
Hitting the milestones as juniors, both players will be back to add to their resumes as well when they return for their senior seasons.
Jayden’s special bucket came in a game on January 29 at the Osceola Tournament against the host Indians. She knew she was close, but she did not know how close so it was shocking for the junior when she found out. Shock was quickly replaced by gratitude, though, because she knows there are always four other players on the court with her.
“It means a lot. I’m just really thankful for the team I have,” Butterfield said. “Without them, I would not be able to be in the position I’m in. It took a lot of hard work, but it was a really great accomplishment.”
She was also thankful she got to have a junior season, considering the COVID-19 pandemic came along not long after the completion of her sophomore year. Ultimately, there has not been any disruption in her basketball career when that could have easily not been the case, considering there were just six players on the team this year.
“It has been crazy,” she said. “Everyone has been taking really safe precautions for us to be able to have a season and I’m really thankful for that. Without this season, it would be weird and I’m really thankful we got to have it without any downfalls.”
Climax Springs coach Ron Rhodes is now looking at retirement after taking over the program three years ago to wrap up his 42 years on the sidelines. When he first got to the school, he was not too worried about sending a young freshman in Butterfield on the court.
“She plays hard every night out. It is never a lack of physical effort on her behalf, she always plays hard,” the coach said of Butterfield. “She has a beautiful shot and she is the type of kid where luckily, she does not have a conscience. If she misses, she is going to fire away where some kids shy away and won’t shoot again.
“That is never her problem and she is going to try to get it back up there as soon as she can. We cannot win without her scoring.”
Rhodes said the junior has gotten stronger since that freshman season and the only thing that could slow her down at this point is any self-doubt she may have. Scoring 1,000 career points may help to erase any doubt that was left, though.
“She had that shot before I ever showed up around here. Her dad worked with her when she was younger and I don’t get any credit for her shot, that was already made by the time I took over here,” the coach noted.
Butterfield said she is thankful her dad pushed her to be the best she could be in what she calls her favorite sport and she could not imagine hitting that special milestone for any other program.
“I love Climax and I’ve always loved playing for Climax,” she said. “It is really rewarding and fun and I would not want to play for any other team.”
Henderson was hoping his special night would get to take place on his home floor. He had to settle for a game at Hermitage on February 5, but he was just as excited when that key shot fell through the net.
“I didn’t know what to do. I guess no one really knows what to do when it happens because they’ve never done it before,” said Henderson who recalled that he did not know ahead of time how close he actually was. “I’ve seen older people get 1,000 whenever I was a kid and that was all I was shooting for. I want to get higher than 1,000, now.”
It is a milestone the junior did not take for granted, especially to claim it before his senior season, and he said he was thankful to have the opportunity to play every varsity game at a small school. While he turns his attention to higher benchmarks, that has never been his sole focus.
“As a point guard I try to get everyone else a shot, but I’m more of a scoring guard, too,” Henderson said. “So, I try to do my part and shoot when I’m open and try to finish all my layups and take good shots.”
When he is not on the court at Climax Springs, it is those concrete floors at home that Henderson has become quite familiar with that have aided the development of his game.
“I’m always dribbling in the house, throwing the ball up on the wall and acting like I’m shooting layups,” he stated. “That is where I really learned to dribble and I’m always dribbling something whether it is a little ball or something.”
Well, Butterfield is glad he did because it certainly helps his own program with a guard like Henderson facilitating the offense.
“It’s been a great pleasure to coach Mark. I guess what I’d say has been a secret to his success is that it genuinely feels like Mark loves to play,” the coach remarked. “Ever since he was a little boy, he’s really enjoyed playing. It doesn’t hurt that he works extremely hard as well.”
And while scoring 1,000 points certainly speaks for itself in terms of the junior’s offensive game, the coach pointed to his defensive efforts and how much it has helped to make that milestone happen, too.
“Mark’s commitment to defense has helped his scoring. If Mark is not having a great shooting night he can always count on his defense to lead to some easy buckets,” Butterfield noted. “Even as a freshman, he had great anticipation on the defensive end of the floor and he’s the most instinctive player I’ve ever coached.”
Butterfield said Henderson’s game is continuing to evolve, too, and has not become stagnant as he continues to develop.
“His ability to handle pressure has grown as he’s gotten older and his shooting has steadily improved. The biggest improvement has come from his hard work to involve others in a way they can be successful,” he stated.
Henderson’s junior season may have been a little different, having to put on masks at times to make sure the season could go on in the middle of a pandemic. At the same time, he was glad he could share that experience with teammates he has been playing with since the third grade.
“It is sad half of them are leaving this year,” the junior said of this year’s senior class. “Hopefully next year we’ll be just as good, or be better, and I like it. I like the small school atmosphere where everybody knows everybody and is cheering for everybody.”
With one season left to go at Climax Springs, Butterfield is looking forward to having a 1,000-point scorer lead the way one more time.
“Mark sets a great example for younger kids by working hard, doing well in class and always remembering his family and faith,” the coach pointed out. “Mark is a great young man and he’s going to have a great senior season. Congratulations on your 1,000.”